Enriqueta Martí

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Enriqueta Martí

Enriqueta Martí i Ripollés (1868 – 12 May 1913)[1] was a Spanish child murderer, kidnapper, and procuress of children.

Recent research, however, asserts that she was not a killer of children, but rather a person with mental disorders that can only be proven reliably the abduction of a girl. All the black legend that is attributed to him could not be demonstrated.[2][3]

Social context[edit]

Barcelona's population increased from 140,000 in 1860 to over 587,000 in 1912 and the majority of these new residents found themselves in el Chino, the Fifth District, now known as El Raval. Waves of immigration brought peasants and proles to "The Pearl of the Mediterranean," as Barcelona was known. In fact, the average life expectancy in Barcelona was 41 years; the infant mortality rate was over 17%. Parents would often hide their sons' births from city authorities; if infectious disease did not kill them as children, young men would only be sent to fight for a foreign occupation in Morocco.

The city saw the worst of the Spanish–American War, as the Spanish port which processed the most Spanish soldiers called to war. After 1900, Barcelona sent even more young men to fight in Morocco. Crippled and unemployed war veterans and military deserters lived in Barcelona alongside illiterate, destitute immigrants.

In the summer of 1909, the city suffered through an explosive, week-long, episode of civil unrest known as the Tragic Week. It began as a general strike of the city proletariat, then spiraled out of control, resulting in chaotic street fights with city police, and the eventual occupation of the port city by national troops.

Of the over 6,000 homes found in Barcelona at the time, just over 2,000 were in El Raval. Journalist Josep Maria Huertas wrote that: "it was common for forty to fifty people to live in one house". Due to the district's close proximity to the port, hostels and boarding houses abounded, seedy taverns were converted into flophouses and brothels to better serve those coming through. Morphine and alcohol addiction were common. There were frequent knife fights, a large population of adolescent prostitutes, and an estimated 8,000-10,000 street children and child thieves on the streets.

At the time, Barcelona was allegedly the pornography capital of Europe, exporting pornographic films and postcards to foreign capitols throughout Europe and the Americas. El Raval was then, as now, the red-light district. It was also the European port most frequently used to traffic under aged prostitutes to major cities like New York City, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires. Children of the Fifth District who evaded forced prostitution and sex trafficking were often kidnapped and enslaved in sweatshops and ramshackle factories within the district itself and it was not unusual for destitute families to sell their children out of economic desperation.[4]

Folk beliefs regarding bogeymen such as the Hombre del saco and el Sacamantecas were still strong among the populace. Serial killers Manuel Blanco Romasanta and Juan Díaz de Garayo influenced this bogeyman figure, and Francisco Leóna's 1910 murder of a seven-year-old boy for his blood and fat to treat the tuberculosis of a wealthy farmer, Francisco Ortega, must have been fresh in the minds of many people[5]

Early life[edit]

Enriqueta Martí was born in Sant Feliu de Llobregat in 1868.[6] As a young woman, Enriqueta Martí moved from her hometown to Barcelona where she worked as a maidservant and nanny; she soon turned to prostitution. In 1895 she married a painter named Juan Pujaló, but the marriage failed. According to Pujaló, Martí's affairs with other men, her character, and her continuous visits to houses of ill repute caused the separation. The pair reconciled and separated approximately six times. At the time of Martí's detention in 1912, the couple had been separated for five years, and had not had children.

Martí was leading a double life. During the day she begged at houses of charity, convents, and parishes in the destitute parts of town using children she passed off as her own. Later, she prostituted or murdered them. She had no need to beg since her double work as a procurer and prostitute gave her sufficient money to live well. By night she attended the El Liceu, the Casino de la Arrabassada, and other places where the wealthy of Barcelona gathered likely offering her services as a procurer of children.

In the Tragic Week of 1909, she was arrested at her flat on Barcelona's Minerva Street, along with a young man from a wealthy family, and accused of running a brothel that offered sexual services from children. Thanks to her contacts with Barcelona's high society using her services, she was never tried.

At the same time as she was prostituting children, she was also practicing as a witch-doctor. The ingredients she used to make her remedies came from the remains of the children that she was killing, who ranged from infants up to 9 years of age. She used the fat, blood, hair, and bones that she powdered. For this reason, she did not have problems disposing of her victims. Martí offered salves, ointments, filters, poultices, and potions, especially to treat tuberculosis, which was highly feared at the time, and various diseases that did not have a cure in traditional medicine. The wealthy paid large sums of money for these remedies.

It is suspected that she kidnapped a large number of children over a span of twenty years. She was finally arrested in a flat in El Raval; more evidence was found in flats in Barcelona where she had lived previously.

Forensic experts managed to differentiate a total of twelve children with what little evidence they were able to recover. In spite of suspicions, and because Martí did not tally her activities, experts are unsure if she was Spain's deadliest killer. It is clear that she acted for many years in Barcelona. The public suspected that someone was kidnapping babies, and many children disappeared without a trace causing dread among the population.

Mezzanine number 29, Ponent Street[edit]

On February 10, 1912, she kidnapped her last victim: Teresita Guitart Congost. For two weeks the city looked for her and there was great public indignation since the authorities had been extremely passive regarding the missing children. A suspicious neighbor, Claudia Elías, found Congost's trail. On February 17, Elías saw a girl with cropped hair looking from a casement window of a flat at mezzanine number 29, Ponent Street. Elías had never seen the girl. She asked her neighbor if the girl was hers but the neighbor, who was Martí, closed the window without saying a word. Elías shared this, as well as her suspicions that the little girl was Congost, with a mattress-maker down the street. She also told him of the strange life that her neighbor was leading. The mattress-maker informed a municipal agent, Jose Asens of Elías' suspicions and he, in turn, communicated this to the chief of the Ribot brigade.

On February 27, saying there had been a complaint about chickens in the flat, Ribot and two agents went to look for Martí. They found her in the court of Ferlandina Street, informed her of the accusation, then escorted her to her flat. She proved to be surprised but did not object. When the policemen entered, two girls were found in the flat. One of them was Teresita Guitard Congost, the other a girl called Angelita. After making a statement, Congost was returned to her parents. She explained how Martí took her by the hand promising her candies, covered her with a black rag, and forced her to the flat. Martí cut Congost's hair and changed her name to Felicidad, telling the child she no longer had parents, and was to call her "step mother" from then on. Martí fed the girl potatoes and stale bread, and preferred to pinch rather than beat the child. She was prohibited from going to the windows and balconies as well as several rooms in the flat.

Congost told authorities that Martí was in the habit of leaving them alone and that one day they risked exploring the rooms that Martí forbade them from entering. They found a sack with girl’s clothes covered in blood and a boning knife also covered with blood. Congost never left the flat during her captivity.

Angelita's declaration was more frightening. Before Congost arrived at the flat, there was a five-year-old boy called Pepito. Angelita said that she secretly saw Martí, who she was calling "mom", kill him on the kitchen table. Angelita's identity was more difficult to pinpoint as she did not know her real surname but confirmed Martí’s claim that her father was called Juan. Martí maintained that Angelita was her daughter by her estranged husband Juan Pujaló. He appeared before a judge and declared that he had not lived with Martí for years, that they had not had children, and that he did not know where Angelita came from. Eventually Martí claimed that she had taken the girl as a newborn from her sister-in-law having told her that the girl was stillborn. Enriqueta Martí Ripollés was detained and jailed in the Reina Amalia prison.

During the second inspection of the flat, detectives found the sack with the bloody clothing and the knife. They also found another sack with dirty clothes and at least thirty small human bones.[6] These bones showed evidence of being exposed to fire. Investigators found a lounge sumptuously decorated with a cupboard with nice clothes for a boy and girl. This lounge contrasted with the rest of the flat which was austere and smelled badly. In another locked room they found the horror that Martí was hiding. In it, there were fifty pitchers, jars, and washbowls, with preserved human remains: greasy lard, coagulated blood, children’s hair, skeletons of hands, powdered bones, and pots with the potions, ointments and salves already prepared for sale.

Investigators also went to two more flats where Martí had lived: a flat in the Tallers Street, a third in Picalqués Street, and a little house in Jocs Florals Street, in Sants. In both of them they found false walls and human remains in the ceilings. In the garden of the house on Jocs Florals Street, they found the skull of a three-year-old child, and a series of bones that corresponded to 3, 6 and 8-year-old children. Some remains still had pieces of clothes whose condition indicated that Martí had habitually kidnapped children of impoverished families with insufficient means to look for their missing children. Further investigation revealed more housing in Sant Feliu de Llobregat, property of Martí's family. Here they found remains of children in vases and jars as well as books of remedies.

In Ponent's flat they found curious things: an ancient book with parchment covers, a book of notes where she had written recipes and potions in elegant calligraphy, a package of letters and notes written in coded language, and a list with names of families and important figures in Barcelona. The list was very controversial since the public believed that it was a list of Enriqueta's rich clients and that, because of their wealth, they would not pay for their crimes of pedophilia or of buying human remains to treat their health. Police tried to stop the list from leaking, but rumors abounded that it was a client list of doctors, politicians, businessmen and bankers. With events of the Tragic Week in their minds, and fearing riots, authorities calmed the public with newspaper articles explaining that the list contained the names of people that Martí had begged from, and that they had been swindled by the lies and requests of the murderer.

Martí was imprisoned in the Reina Amàlia jail to await trial. She tried to commit suicide by slashing her wrists with a wooden knife. Public indignation exploded because the people wanted her to face trial and execution by the garrote. Prison authorities made it known in the press that measures had been taken to ensure that Martí would not be able to kill herself.

Martí was never tried for her crimes.[6] She died a year and three months after her arrest at the hands of her prison mates. Her companions killed her by lynching her on one of the prison patios on May 12, 1913. The untimely death robbed authorities of the opportunity to completely expose all of her secrets. She was buried secretly in a common grave in the Cementerio del Sudoeste, situated on the mountain of Montjuïc in Barcelona.[7]

Martí's declarations, testimonies[edit]

Enriqueta had changed her surname, Martí, to Marina and, using this surname, leased flats often neglecting to pay the rent. During interrogation, she confessed her real surname which was corroborated by her husband, Juan Pujaló.

She was interrogated about the presence of Teresita Guitart in her house and explained that she had found the girl, lost and hungry, the day before in the Ronda de Sant Pau. Claudia Elías denied this because she had seen the girl in her flat several days before the arrest.

Martí was also questioned about the presence of bones, human remains, creams, potions, poultices, ointments, blood bottles, as well as the boning knife. Interrogators asked if she had subjected the bones to be burned or cooked, as forensics suggested. Martí claimed that she studied human anatomy, but under pressure from the interrogators she confessed that she was a healer and used children as raw material for the production of her remedies. She claimed to be an expert, and knew how to make the best remedies and preparations that were highly sought after by wealthy people of good social position.

During interrogation she disclosed the locations of her other flats (Tallers Street, Picalqués, Jocs Florals and her home in Sant Feliu de Llobregat), and told investigators where to look inside them. She was already known for, and confessed to, her services as a procurer for pedophiles, but out of anger at the fate that awaited her, did not name a single customer.

Investigators knew of the existence of the little boy known as "Pepito" from the testimony of Angelita and Claudia Elias. Martí claimed Pepito had been entrusted to her by a family that could not care for him. When asked for his whereabouts, she said that he had gone to the country because he had become ill, the same excuse she had used with her inquiring neighbor, Claudia Elías. Overwhelming evidence, and Angelita's testimony shattered this excuse. She was unable to refute bloody clothes in a sack, the knife, and some remnants of fresh fat, blood, and bones. These remains were those of Pepito. Nor could she identify the family that had entrusted her with the child, making it clear that the boy was another kidnapped child.

An Aragonese woman from Alcañiz recognized her as the kidnapper of her infant son, some six years earlier, in 1906. Martí displayed an extraordinary kindness to the exhausted and hungry woman after a very long journey from their land and was allowed to hold the child. Using an excuse, she moved away from the mother then disappeared. The unfortunate mother never found her son nor came to know what she did with him. It is suspected that she used the baby to manufacture her remedies.

Counterarguments[edit]

Historian Elsa Plaza spent seven years studying the case of Enriqueta Martí and has written a book, El Cielo Bajo Los Pies (The Sky Underfoot), which brings to light information about the woman herself. Plaza explains that since 1912 Barcelona has referred to Martí as a serial killer though: "Enriqueta was never formally charged with murder nor was any corpse of a child found in her home." She often went begging with other women's children because there was a network of women who helped each other. It was eventually shown that Angelita was truly her niece by her estranged husband's sister, María Pujaló. Martí's story has generally been told by men. Nobody thought that blood found in her flat could belong to Martí herself; she was shown to be dying of uterine cancer and often bled heavily. Most newspapers at the time claimed Martí was the woman who had kidnapped about 40 children from the Fifth District. When the bones found in one of Martí's houses (in Picalquers Street) were determined to be from multiple animals instead of from children, the assembled journalists almost attacked the doctor who made the announcement. Martí's case was fodder for nascent tabloid journalism; she the ideal scapegoat to blame for the missing children.

Shortly before Martí's arrest, police had closed a brothel in Botella Street that prostituted children. The fine for raping a boy or a girl was fifty pesetas; a worker earned four pesetas a day. The owner was apprehended, but not the customers. In addition, Barcelona was a major producer and exporter of pornography, exporting films and pictures to the rest of Europe and to the Americas.

Martí also confessed that she had prostituted a girl of seventeen years in a brothel on Sabadell Street, and had also performed abortions, but she never confessed to killing anyone.

Plaza explains that the entire trial was staged: "They wanted to cover the misery and exploitation. The point of all was the discovery of a child brothel in Botella Street. It is true that children disappeared. Some were sent to France, where they were exploited in glass factories outside Paris", she explains. The stolen (or sold by their parents to ease economic hardship) children were useful for: begging, illegal adoptions, child abuse, or exploitation in factories where the hard work was crippling. "We can suspect that some girls were victims of international trafficking for prostitution. Here there are not many papers on the subject, but there are in Latin America. Girls were sent to New York, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. In 1903, the board against white slavery was created and chaired by the Infanta Isabel," Plaza notes. When Enriqueta Martí died at dawn May 13, 1913, she was attended by two inmates who asked if they could attend to the body.[8]

Enriqueta Martí in literature[edit]

Los diarios de Enriqueta Martí by Pierrot is a novel that centers on a few supposed diaries that Enriqueta Martí wrote before beginning her murderous career. Illustrated by the author.

El misterio de la calle Poniente is a novel by Fernando Gómez. In February, 1912 the disappearance of a three-year-old girl shocked Barcelona. The investigation and, later discoveries, revealed to the public a series of macabre murders that shook a city that was recovering from the Tragic Week. The book details many prominent figures who helped to shape the story; individuals of flesh and bone, many of them incapable of being the protagonists of their own story. They converge to outline faithfully the authentic face of the merciless Enriqueta Martí, who begs by day, dresses as a marquise by night, and knows the power from the darkest side. The fresh blood is her valued goods, the children her suppliers, and a sick middle class her clients.

El Cielo Bajo los Pies is a non-fiction book by Elsa Plaza. In a case that shocked Barcelona in 1912. Enriqueta Martí, called by the derisive names "The Vampiress of Barcelona" and "The Bad Woman", was besieged by all kinds of rumors from the moment police arrested her, accusing her of making children disappear with the most aberrant intentions, from turning them into objects of pleasure for the wealthy, to making cosmetics and salves to prolong life. Martí is presented as a likely scapegoat and a number of destitute families are accused of selling their children, albeit out of economic desperation.

Barcelona Shadows, a novel by Marc Pastor. "Pastor’s humble but effective storytelling innovation is to have Death narrate the story… It sounds gimmicky, but in Pastor’s able hands (neatly translated by Mara Faye Lethem) it adds a fateful dimension… Pastor is also skilled at creating brief, crisp scenes that get into the minds not only of his detective but of two captive little girls, and other characters as well. He’s grittily insightful into the psychology of a city under stress… [a] dark, fast-moving tale."[9] — Blogcritics

Enriqueta Martí in popular culture[edit]

The figure was in the Spanish TV series El Ministerio del Tiempo (episode "Separadas por el tiempo") as a serial killer who pass the time and sell children.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Date appears in the catalan journal La Vanguardia, 13th of May of 1913, page 3
  2. ^ La pobre Enriqueta: entrevista a Jordi Corominas
  3. ^ Enriqueta Martí, la vampira que no fue
  4. ^ Gayà, Catalina. 2011. La Miseria de Siempre. elPeriódico.com
  5. ^ Soler Cervantes, Milagros. El crimen de Gádor (Almería). Retrieved June 18, 2014
  6. ^ a b c "Enriqueta Martí – The Vampire of the Raval". Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  7. ^ Place of the burial published in the journal "La Vanguardia", 13th of May of 1913, page 3
  8. ^ Gayà, Catalina. 2011. La Miseria de Siempre.
  9. ^ "Barcelona Shadows by Marc Pastor". Penguin Random House. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 

External links[edit]